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A play about Ezra Pound by Billy Marshall Stoneking Copyright © 1991 Billy Marshall Stoneking Email: Introductory Note In 1943, the American poet, Ezra Pound, was indicted by the United States government on the charge of treason. It had been alleged that Pound, an American citizen, had made anti-American broadcasts during the war over Italian radio, and that these same broadcasts had give “aid and comfort” to the enemy. His wife, friends and colleagues, mindful of the war-born passions of the time, and fearing for his life, urged him to enter a plea of insanity as a means of escaping the death penalty. This he did, and the court subsequently upheld the plea. However, instead of releasing him into the care of his wife - as had been expected - the government confined him to St Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., an institution that housed hundreds of the criminally insane. Pound, “one of the great literary figures of our time”, would remain incarcerated at St Elizabeth’s for nearly thirteen years. Characters Ezra Pound: The American poet. Early 70s. Woman: A psychiatrist from the Justice Department, Washington, D.C. Mid-30s. Betsy: A university student from New York. Early 20s. Scene Ezra Pound’s room, Chestnut Ward St Elizabeth’s Hospital Washington, D.C. Time Late winter/early spring, 1958. ___________________________________________ NOTE: The author recommends that actors and directors listen to Ezra Pound Reading, Vols. 1 & 2 (Caedmon Records, TC 1122 and TC 1155), which contain Pound’s poetry as read by him. The present play was written with Pound’s voice in mind. ACT ONE SETTING: A private room in Chestnut Ward, St Elizabeth’s Hospital, Washington, D.C. – the bowels of a derelict submarine: wadded-up paper, trampled books, battered cardboard boxes, old paint tins, tools and discarded newspapers, dirty clothes, a couple of tennis rackets, a few dusty oil paintings, etc. - the cargo hold on a voyage to the dead. Suspended over the chaos, running the length of the room, are several strands of twine (like clotheslines) to which clippings, letters, charts and sheaves of manuscripts have been attached: an extravagant if not highly eccentric filing system that can be raised or lowered at will by the manipulation of an number of AT RISE: Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel blares out of the shadows, then slowly recedes into the body of a chunky “Bakelite” radio on top of the fridge. T he room is dark, but one can still see thanks to a hopeful beam of light. A gray-haired old man, dwarfed by a larger-than-life desk, hunches over an antique typewriter, asleep. His clothes are disheveled; his hair, uncombed. HE is the poet - EZRA POUND. The music continues... The door to the room opens, and a well-dressed WOMAN, briefcase in hand, steps into the door frame, pauses for a moment, then enters. SHE flicks on the lights, switches off the radio, looks round the room, slightly disgusted by the mess. SHE peruses the filing system, scrutinizes the desk, and scans the unmade bed. SHE runs her index finger along the top of the dresser, checking for dust. POUND (In his sleep) “They will come no more… the old men with the eautiful manners.” (The WOMAN removes her overcoat and drapes it on the back of a chair. SHE takes a pad & pencil from her briefcase and turns to POUND) POUND (Continued) “O! O god! Our god is a gallant foe that playeth behind the veil.” (HE emits a drawn-out moan, then raises his head. HE runs his fingers through his hair. His eyes dart over the topography of the desk, as if HE might be searching for something HE has misplaced. HE sighs) (The WOMAN moves closer. Sensing her presence, POUND turns in his chair. Their eyes meet. POUND blinks, as if trying to dispel an apparition. HE reaches out, tentatively, as if to test whether or not SHE is real. SHE pulls away) POUND (Continued) A dream? WOMAN The Department of Justice. POUND Ah. A nightmare, then. WOMAN Doctor Overholser suggested the corridor, but I thought it might be more comfortable if we met in your room. (POUND glances round at the mess) POUND Gives new meaning to the word “digs”, wouldn’t you say? (Beat) Where’s the other one? WOMAN The other one? POUND The man. They usually send a man. WOMAN You mean Doctor Steiner. POUND That’s the one! Gawd, that man could talk. Never could get a word in edgewise. WOMAN You made quite an impression on him. POUND He liked the way I listened. We almost knew each other. WOMAN He talked a lot about you. POUND Always brought a bottle of whisky with him. The cheap stuff. Usually finished it, too. Why isn’t he here? WOMAN Doctor Steiner won’t be coming anymore. POUND Why not? WOMAN He’s not with the Department any more. POUND Found another line of work, did he? WOMAN Retired. POUND Pity. Lasted much longer than the others. WOMAN I’ll be handling your case from now on. My name is… POUND Must be the catalyst. (Beat) WOMAN Pardon me? POUND Waal, I don’t normally see people on Tuesdays. Busy schedule, you know. WOMAN Today is Friday, Mr Pound. POUND Friday! Well, there you have it! Three days lost already. WOMAN Doctor Overholser told you I was coming, didn’t he? POUND Overholser! WOMAN He said he’d spoken to you about it. POUND Who else is here? (Peering at the audience) You’ve brought someone with you. WOMAN No one. POUND Don’t lie to me. I can hear them. WOMAN Mr Pound, there’s no one here… POUND Shush! Listen. (They listen) POUND (Continued) Sometimes I have the distinct impression I’m in a theatre. Everything’s so goddamned unreal. WOMAN A theatre? POUND Yeah. WOMAN What sort of theatre? POUND Oh, I don’t know. An ordinary theatre. An ordinary theatre with an ordinary audience. (Waving to someone in the audience) Hell-lo! Hello, Doctor Overholser! I can see you! (To WOMAN) Two-way mirror. Part of the their therapy program. Can’t scratch your ass without the feeling someone’s watching. (HE moves to his dresser, opens a drawer and takes out a large sweater with bright, geometrical designs on it) WOMAN You think Doctor Overholser is spying on you? POUND The man’s a virtual peeping tom. Bloody unnerving. Everybody’s so goddamned preoccupied with my private affairs. Voyeurism! It’s all the go these days. WOMAN I’m sure Doctor Overholser respects your privacy. POUND Don’t bullshit me. The man hangs on every word. The thought he might actually miss something terrifies him. WOMAN He was telling me this morning that you seem quite contented here. POUND He would. Contended! Huh! (Picks lint from his sweater) WOMAN He was telling me that you’re one of his best patients. POUND Wish I could say the same for him. WOMAN He seems to enjoy having you on the ward. POUND Oh yes, if lost me his entire social life would evaporate. The man is voracious. Last week, he wanted to know everything I could tell him about Georgian poetry. Yesterday it was Byzantine art. And tomorrow… tomorrow…? (Referring to his diary) Ah yes! Tomorrow he’s pencilled in Confucius. Egad! There’s no rest from it. I must be the only person on the planet the man can have a serious conversation with. WOMAN Perhaps he thinks your ideas are worth listening to. POUND Anyone who listens that closely can’t be trusted. WOMAN He trusts you. POUND To a point, my dear, to a point. Only because he knows where he can find me. Why, just the other day he was convinced Bill Williams was trying to sneak in contraband. Can you imagine it? WOMAN Contraband? POUND Oh yes! So much depends upon a sharpened hacksaw, glazed with cherries, inside the homemade fruitcake. (Beat) The man knows absolutely nothing about poets. And even less about me. (Goes on picking lint) WOMAN Thinks you’re going to escape, does he? POUND You’ve heard! Ah yes. Over-hauler’s little wager? He’s betting Barnes that Frost is going to spring me. He’s got five bucks riding on it. WOMAN Really! POUND Five bucks, I know. A real gambler. (HE slips into the sweater) So, whaddaya reckon? A bit loud? WOMAN No. Not at all. It’s very becoming. It’s… it’s you. POUND A spinster in Schnectady, New York, made it for me. Knitted it herself. Blind since birth. Took her three and a half years. A real fan. (Goes on picking lint, then looks up) POUND (Continued) What’re you staring at? WOMAN Was I staring? POUND I don’t care what you call it. You were looking at me. WOMAN I’m sorry. It’s just that, well… I would’ve taken you to be a much bigger man. POUND Everyone’s a critic. Actually, I am not as short as I look. It’s just that the ceilings are a mite high. (HE gathers up a stack of newspapers and magazines from a chair and drops it on the floor) Take a seat, my dear. Make yourself at mental home. WOMAN Thank you. (SHE crosses to the chair) POUND Ignore the mess. It’s always like this. (SHE sits) WOMAN I’d like to ask you a few questions… if you wouldn’t mind. (POUND picks up a plate of leftover pate. HE sniffs it) POUND Dammit! I thought pate lasted forever. (HE chucks the plate of pate into a wastepaper basket, and begins tidying up) WOMAN Mr Pound? (HE continues to tidy up) WOMAN Mr Pound! POUND What? WOMAN I was thinking we might have a little chat… you know, about some of your ideas. POUND I loathe chats. WOMAN There’s no need to think of me as the enemy. I assure you, that’s not my role. POUND Now I’m worried. WOMAN I can imagine what you must be feeling. POUND I don’t think so. But what about you? What’re you feeling? (Moving closer) Ah yes… I see. WOMAN What? POUND It’s all over your face. WOMAN What is? POUND Don’t be so coy. Look in the mirror. Go on. There’s no use trying to hide it. You can’t hide it! WOMAN Hide what? POUND It’s all right. I’m used to it. WOMAN I’m not hiding anything, Mr Pound. POUND I can take it. WOMAN What? POUND Doesn’t bother me in the slightest. WOMAN What’re you talking about? POUND You think I’m paranoid, don’t you? WOMAN Paranoid? POUND Yes! See how it just rolls off the tongue? WOMAN Overly sensitive, maybe, but I’d hardly think you’re… POUND You bet I’m sensitive! I’ve watched ‘em. I know all about ‘em. WOMAN Who? POUND The people in charge here. The clipboard brigade. The way they huddle in corners. They don’t think I notice, but I do. The Inquisition was organized by people like that, y’know. WOMAN Why do you think you’re here, Mr Pound? POUND They didn’t tell you! (In utter disgust) Bureaucrats! WOMAN I’d like to know what you think. POUND Well, that certainly puts you in the minority. Have you read my poems? WOMAN No. POUND Essays? WOMAN I’m afraid not. POUND What about my Guide to Kulchur? WOMAN Not yet. POUND Not a scrap? WOMAN Sorry. POUND And you’re interested in what I think? WOMAN I’m interested in what you have to say. POUND What about the translations, then? Or the play? WOMAN I diagrammed sentences in high school English, and studied math and science at college. POUND What do you read? WOMAN Well… let me see… there’s, uh, American Medicine, and… The New England Medical Journal… Psychiatry And Health… oh yes, and, uh, Gone With The Wind. POUND Gone With the Wind? WOMAN By Margaret Mitchell. POUND Stepped in front of a bus, didn’t she? WOMAN I think it was an automobile. POUND That’s right. Hit and run. Some people have all the luck. (POUND moves away from the WOMAN, then, in a bizarre display of fatigue, stretches out on the floor. HE twists and turns, trying to make himself as flat as possible) WOMAN Mr Pound? (Beat) Mr Pound? (Pause) (HE sits up) POUND There it is again! Did you hear that? WOMAN What? POUND Someone laughing. WOMAN Where? POUND Sort of… (Gesturing) Sort of there. (SHE listens) WOMAN I can’t hear anything. POUND Shush! WOMAN It was probably one of the other patients… (POUND gets to his feet) WOMAN (Continued) Or termites. POUND Termites don’t laugh. WOMAN It’s a very old building. POUND They laugh in old buildings? WOMAN No one’s laughing, Mr Pound. POUND I bet we’d be able to see them if I turned out the lights. Will I turn out the lights? WOMAN I don’t think that’ll be necessary. POUND But you won’t be able to see them with the lights on, not unless they light a match, and they’re not allowed to smoke. WOMAN No, Not in a theatre. POUND Now you’re catching on. (HE switches the lights off. Darkness) WOMAN Mr Pound! (Beat) Ouch! POUND Sorry. WOMAN Mr Pound, where have you gone? (Chair noises, banging) WOMAN (Continued) This is ridiculous. POUND Can you see them? WOMAN Who? POUND The people. WOMAN What people? POUND Give it a minute. Let the eyes adjust. Extraordinary what you can see once the eyes adjust. WOMAN I can’t see a thing. POUND Patience, my dear. WOMAN Please turn on the lights, Mr Pound. POUND Oh yes, yes… I’m starting to see something now… over there… on the left. WOMAN I’m going to call the orderly, Mr Pound. POUND Wait! Can’t you see that? WOMAN Where? POUND You’ve got eyes, don’t you? WOMAN There’s nothing to see. (SHE switches on the light) (POUND is standing on top of his desk, staring out at the audience. HE turns to the WOMAN) POUND What’re you doing? WOMAN Would you mind coming down. POUND What for? WOMAN I want to talk to you. POUND Did you see them? WOMAN (Angrily) Would you please come down! POUND But there’s a whole group of ‘em. WOMAN I know. (POUND steps on to a chair) POUND And they’re watching us. Both of us! WOMAN Maybe if we mind our own business they’ll go away. POUND No, I’ve tried that. It only encourages ‘em. WOMAN Well, then we’ll just have to encourage them a little more. POUND It’s not like you think. WOMAN Please, Mr Pound. POUND (To audience) Maggots! (HE steps from the chair to the floor) WOMAN Sit down. (HE sits) WOMAN (Continued) Thank you. (SHE sits) The Justice Department is reviewing your case for the purpose of ascertaining your mental competency. They’ve asked me to make an assessment. Based on my findings and the doctors’ reports, a recommendation will be made about your fitness to answer the charges against you. POUND Usual bureaucratic balls-up, eh? WOMAN Routine procedure. POUND Probably would’ve been easier if I’d hung myself. WOMAN The government wants your case settled, one way or the other. That’s why I’m here. POUND Well, what’s it been now? Eleven, twelve years? And still no trial. I’d say you haven’t come a moment too soon. WOMAN You were the one who pleaded insanity. POUND Bad legal advice. Do I look like I have a screw loose? (HE smiles) WOMAN Treason is punishable by death, Mr Pound. POUND So is life, my dear. WOMAN They can still send you to the electric chair, you know. POUND I ain’t skeerd. WOMAN You understand what I’m saying? POUND Oh yes, I understand plenty. It’s all the other crap the law doesn’t cover that confuses me. WOMAN Such as? POUND The sanctified stupidities! The whole structure of what we so glibly refer to as modern civilization. What about all that? WOMAN What about it? POUND You tell me. WOMAN What do you want me to say? POUND The truth. WOMAN I’m afraid the committee’s judging you, Mr Pound. Society isn’t part of the brief. POUND Oh, I see. Yes. That explains everything. Of course. The memo mentality. Cogs in the wheel. Right. I almost forgot. “Whom God would destroy, he first puts into the hands of the public service!” Silly me. Silly old fart. For a moment there I almost thought poetry could make a difference in the world. My mistake. Obviously it is the brief writers who have the power in this country. I was merely succinct. WOMAN This doesn’t have anything to do with poetry, Mr Pound. POUND No, goddammit! It’s about usury and decay. The destruction of everything Adams and Jefferson stood for. The nation’s wealth reduced to interest payments, and managed by a few individuals for private profit without any kind of production whatsoever. Greed before bread, Mediocrity cloaked in graft. WOMAN The question is: are you capable of defending yourself. POUND You mean am I crazy. WOMAN If it’s decided that you’re mental faculties are such that you can mount a reasonable defense, then you’ll have your day in court. POUND And if I’m nuts? WOMAN Then you will stay here. POUND For the rest of my life? WOMAN Until you’re able to answer the charges. POUND Well I ain’t guilty, and the bastards know it. The only reason they keep me cooped up here is so I can’t tell the truth about ‘em. WOMAN Some of your descriptions of President Roosevelt were pretty extreme. People aren’t likely to forget that sort of thing. POUND I only said what was true. WOMAN Over the radio. POUND And what about freedom of speech? Or don’t that apply to poets no more? WOMAN The Constitution applies to everyone, Mr Pound. POUND Well, freedom of speech is mockery if it don’t include free speech over the radio. WOMAN That doesn’t mean you can say anything you like. POUND The theatre was on fire, my dear! WOMAN You said this country was run by pigs. POUND I only gave ‘em the facts. WOMAN As you saw them. POUND As an American citizen. WOMAN You defended Fascism. POUND My talks gave pain to the enemy - the real enemy. WOMAN I’ve read the transcripts, Mr Pound. POUND Then you had better read them again. WOMAN You said what you said during wartime. POUND To save the Constitution. WOMAN By undermining the government? POUND By trying to bust a racket! You think we elect the people who run this country? Political bug-wash! It’s private interest that runs this country. I tell you, there’s a conspiracy against decency and justice going on out there, and it’s going on right now! WOMAN Hitler and Mussolini were the conspirators. POUND Bilge! WOMAN You think they cared about decency and justice? The history of America was made by people who gave their lives to fight that kind of hatred and intolerance. POUND The history of this country was made by men who kept their names out of it so’s they wouldn’t get caught. WOMAN I don’t believe that. POUND Believe whatever you like. A man still has the right to defend himself, to have his ideas examined one at a time. (The WOMAN stares back at him, then looks down and consults her note pad) WOMAN I understand you’re a close friend of the novelist, James Joyce. POUND Ah yes. Joyce and I speak regularly. WOMAN He lives in Washington? POUND No. No, as a matter of fact, he’s dead. WOMAN I’m sorry. POUND These things happen. WOMAN Nevertheless, there seem to be a number of living writers who see you as the most important literary figure of the twentieth century. POUND And no one believes ‘em. WOMAN Ernest Hemingway says you taught him everything he knows about writing. T.S. Eliot refers to you as a genius. POUND Where’s it say that? WOMAN They’ve signed a petition. The one Robert Frost is sending round. They’re calling you the father of modern poetry. POUND Hmmm… does have a certain ring about it, doesn’t it? WOMAN You like that, don’t you? POUND What damn good has it done? WOMAN You’re practically a household name. POUND That’s what my wife says. WOMAN You’re famous. POUND A smidgen of a reputation, my dear. Nothing to get excited about, though. Nothing approaching that of Mr Eisenhower’s in any case. WOMAN President Eisenhower isn’t a writer. POUND No. But I’m sure he’s working on it. At least he can get to a good library when he needs one. By the way, how’s the golf game? WOMAN Still shooting in the low 90s, I believe. POUND Good. Great game, golf. Impossible, though, in a room this size. (The WOMAN scribbles a note in her pad. POUND cranes his neck to read it) POUND (Continued) Getting it all down? (Reminding her) “… room this size.” WOMAN Thank you. POUND Don’t mention it. (HE moves to his bed, lies down) WOMAN Doctor Barnes has been a little disturbed. POUND You’ve noticed! WOMAN He thinks you talk in circles. POUND Graphic imagination, that boy. WOMAN He believes you’re suffering from some kind of severe self-deception. POUND Cat-piss. WOMAN You don’t like Doctor Barnes, do you? POUND (With accent) Waal, let’s jus’ say he ain’t as entertainin’ as Elvis Presley. WOMAN He’s assembled quite an impression amount of data concerning your case. POUND Barnes is a scientist. He has an abiding faith in the proposition that everything can be reduced to numbers. WOMAN He is also a highly qualified doctor. POUND He equates health with servility. WOMAN He was telling me you talk in your sleep. He said you do it almost every night. POUND Last bastion of free speech in this country, my dear. WOMAN At first he thought it was only gibberish, but now he isn’t so sure. He had the impression you were mumbling names. (POUND sits up) POUND Names? What sort of names? WOMAN He thought they sounded foreign. You speak several languages, don’t you? POUND I can ask for the bathroom in Latin, if that’s what you mean. (HE pulls an apple from the bedclothes, polishes it on his sleeve) (The WOMAN consults her notepad. SHE thumbs through the pages until SHE finds what SHE’s looking for) WOMAN What does Wool-long-gong mean to you? POUND Come again? WOMAN (Reading from pad) “Wool-long-gong”. POUND Is it s’pose to mean something? WOMAN You tell me. POUND Woolen-gong… Woolen gong. Hmm. What a strange concept. WOMAN Why’s that? POUND A woolen gong. You wouldn’t be able to hear it! (The WOMAN stares back, then consults her pad again) WOMAN What about. . . (Reads) “Warr-nam-bool”? POUND Warr-nam-bool… Warr-nam-bool. No, I don’t think I know this language. WOMAN (Reading) “Wand-jina.” POUND Wand-jina? WOMAN That’s what it says… (Spelling it) W-A-N-D-… POUND What is this? Verbal ink blots? WOMAN They’re some of the words you’ve mumbling in your sleep. The orderly, Mr Brierson, wrote them down. POUND Brierson! WOMAN He thought they might be part of a code. POUND Gawd, I wish he’d find a hobby! WOMAN They’re not code words? POUND My dear woman, our greatest problem is that almost everything is a goddamned code. We do not know what is real any more. Every gesture is symbolic. A man cannot shit short of some pundit discovering hidden meaning in it. Even having children is metaphor. Hence, we cannot trust ourselves; and, therefore, we do not trust anybody. No my dear, I do not believe in codes, and even if I did I certainly would not use one in my sleep! (HE takes a bite from the apple & chews vigorously) WOMAN Doctor Barnes thinks they may be the names of places in Australia. POUND Auss’ralia? WOMAN That’s what he said. You made several references to Australia in the radio broadcasts. You suggested selling it to the Jews, I believe. POUND Barnes has been to Auss’ralia, has he? WOMAN I don’t think so. POUND Well, how the hell would he know? WOMAN I believe he found them in his crossword puzzle dictionary. POUND That’d be right. Mind like a steel trap. WOMAN Do you do crosswords? POUND Not if I can help it. Though now that you mention it, I do remember Barnes asking me for a six-letter word beginning with “B” - name of an Auss’ralian wild horse. WOMAN And? POUND I called him a “bastud”… and he wrote that down! (Pause) WOMAN You correspond with several Australians, don’t you? POUND I read The Edge. WOMAN The edge? POUND You know! A literary journal. WOMAN Really! POUND They can read, my dear. WOMAN I didn’t mean it like that. POUND Waal, it’s not all kangaroos and beer, y’know. WOMAN I know. It’s just that… well, when I think about Australia... it always seems so large and empty and faraway. POUND Idaho is worse. WOMAN But Idaho is connected to something bigger. POUND So is Auss’ralia! Under the ocean. (POUND places his apple on the edge of the desk, and picks up a pair of binoculars) Damn things are permanently out of focus. (Holds them to his eyes) Government issue. Have a look. (SHE takes them) POUND (Continued) The illusion of vistas. (SHE puts the binoculars down) POUND (Continued) Maybe it was something I ate. This talking in my sleep… maybe it’s the food. WOMAN Or something from your past. POUND You’d like that, wouldn’t you? WOMAN Tell me about Australia. What do you know about it? POUND Not much. WOMAN What have you heard? What have you read? POUND I can’t see what this has to do with my mental competency. WOMAN It is interesting, though. The names you’ve been saying. POUND What comes out of the mouth doesn’t necessarily explain anything… although… (Beat) WOMAN What? POUND Never mind. It’s not important. WOMAN What were you going to say? POUND Nothing. I’ve talked too much. WOMAN But we’ve only just started. POUND We have? WOMAN Tell me what you were going to say. POUND I don’t think so. WOMAN Why not? POUND Why should I? WOMAN It might be important. POUND Who for? WOMAN For me. POUND More grist for the note pad, eh? WOMAN I want to understand you. POUND Uh-huh. WOMAN Please. (Pause) POUND All right, then. (POUND sits down next to the WOMAN) Ever walked naked in a desert? WOMAN Pardon me? POUND You know… taken off your clothes and walked naked, in a desert. (HE waits for her a reply, but there is none) A desert. (Beat) I knew you wouldn’t understand. WOMAN You’re not making yourself very clear, Mr Pound. POUND No. That’s the problem. Words cannot do everything. You would’ve had to have been there. WOMAN Where? POUND (Sighs) Find a desert, take off your clothes, and walk! The sense of vulnerability is exhilarating. To feel the wind on your skin; the hot sand on the soles of your feet. To be part of the Earth. WOMAN I see. POUND Well ? WOMAN I’m a Methodist. I mean, well… I was raised a Methodist. My parents were Methodists. POUND Methodist… Jew… Taoist… it hardly matters, my dear. WOMAN I had a grandmother who was a nudist. POUND Good Gawd! WOMAN Oh, I shouldn’t have said that. We promised we’d never tell anyone outside the family. I mean, well, we all thought of her as the black sheep, but… POUND Don’t apologize. WOMAN I’m not! POUND Sounds like it. WOMAN Well, I’m wasn’t. POUND Good. (Beat) You wouldn’t happen to be against the death penalty by any chance? WOMAN We’re not here to talk about me, Mr Pound. POUND No. Quite right. How rude of me. It’s just that when you mentioned your grandmother… WOMAN We were talking about Australia. POUND Yes. Auss’ralia. WOMAN Well? POUND Well what? WOMAN Tell us about it. POUND Us? WOMAN Me. POUND Whaddaya wanna hear? WOMAN Whatever you’d like. (Pause) POUND Auss’ralia, eh? (HE thinks) Waal., uh… let’s see… it’s the, uh, oldest piece of dry land on earth. WOMAN (Taking notes) Yes. POUND And, uh… it has a parliamentary democracy. WOMAN Uh-huh. POUND Gave women the vote years before us Americans even thought of it… and, uh… uh… WOMAN Go on. POUND It’s the home of the Pintupi. WOMAN What? POUND Did I say that? WOMAN You said home of the… POUND The Pin-tupi. An obscure Aboriginal tribe. You’ll find a reference or two in The Pisan Cantos. WOMAN An Aboriginal tribe! POUND Oh yes. WOMAN I never realized your interests extended as far as… as Aborigines. POUND You find that peculiar? WOMAN There’s no mention of it in your file. (She notes this in her notebook) POUND There is now. WOMAN How did you come to write about the Aborigines? You haven't ben to Australia, have you? POUND Six weeks cooped up in a cage! Damn thing a dog kennel. Concrete floor. One remembers the craziest things. WOMAN You’ve read about them, then. POUND It’s not all in books. WOMAN So? POUND So imagine: no books, no libraries, no bank accounts, no clothes! You wanna know where civilization screws up? It wears clothes when it should be naked, and is naked when it should be wearing clothes. Europe, for example. WOMAN Europe? POUND Ah yes! Yoo-rup! How wonderfully plump! Gluttonous to the core! Force-fed and filled up from early infantry to Murder in the Cathedral. Conceived out of cave men and cave women. Terrorized by saber-tooth and frost; devoid of pulchritude. Familiar and strange as the parts of one’s body one never sees. Or the eyes of eagles lost in machines evolved from earth and trees in the heartland of indolent factories… WOMAN Mr Pound… POUND Vast armies of sculptures, bastion-like with retinues of scribes and chanting. Crowded in backs against the weather. Crowding - a goad for competition. Fighting makes the blood hot, you know. And makes the bankers even richer. Two thousand years of kulchur to make a habit of Art! And what have we actually produced? Corruption. Bankruptcy. Wars. The higher maggotry! Not like the Aborigines! (POUND picks up the apple, snaps off another chunk, and tosses the core over his shoulder) (Pause) WOMAN Was that one of your own compositions? POUND You liked it? WOMAN Not particularly. Something you're working on?? POUND No. WOMAN It sounded like a poem. POUND I make a point never to write poems while I’m being interviewed. WOMAN It was very passionate. POUND Thank you. WOMAN And a little frightening. POUND You’re fishing. WOMAN I think Australia might be a very important key to unlocking what’s inside of you. POUND What about what’s outside of me? WOMAN Australia was a prison colony, wasn’t it? POUND The English sent their children there for stealing loaves of bread. WOMAN It must have been terrible. POUND The British have always had an interest in prisons. Building them, I mean. Industrious little buggers with an obsession for security. WOMAN POUND What? WOMAN Maybe you see some parallel between Australia and your time here. POUND Too obvious. WOMAN But not impossible. POUND Nothing’s impossible, my dear. WOMAN Do you ever dream? POUND (With suspicion) Why? WOMAN You were having a dream when I came in. POUND After you came in. (Beat) This part of the investigation? WOMAN Does it make you nervous? POUND Should it? Reckon I might let something slip, eh? WOMAN I shouldn’t think so. POUND You following all this? WOMAN Avidly. POUND Good. WOMAN So… can you remember any of your dreams? POUND How do you know I won’t just make something up? WOMAN I don’t. (Pause) POUND Waal… there is one, one that recurs. WOMAN Is it always the same? POUND Always the same, more or less. Quite odd, really. WOMAN Can you tell me about it? POUND Well… there’s red earth… and, uh, stone implements. Axe-heads, that sort of thing, on the ground. And, uh… a mountainous horizon… strange-looking trees… silence. Oh yeah, and rabbit shit. WOMAN Pardon me? POUND Well, I’m no expert, but it’s about the right size. WOMAN Is it vivid? POUND Rabbit shit? WOMAN The dream. POUND Oh! No, no, not vivid. More like seeing everything through a smoke haze. Where do you s’pose they come from? Dreams. WOMAN It’s an interesting question… a difficult question. POUND I’m not going anywhere. WOMAN Oh? I thought you said you were busy. POUND You’ve changed my mind. WOMAN I see. POUND So tell me… dreams. WOMAN Well… I’ve always tended to see them as expressions of an individual’s unacted desires and urges. Repressed emotions and drives are symbolically lived out in dream states. (POUND becomes increasingly restless as SHE continues) WOMAN (Continued) The entire history of the human race, theoretically, can be understood in terms of repression. The conscious mind is only a very small part of the total picture. In civilized societies, we find these repressed urges bubbling up in dreams. They may not be… (Beat) Are you listening, Mr Pound? POUND The Freudian angle, eh? WOMAN You don’t agree with Freud? POUND We spend twelve hundred generations developing so- called civilization to the point where it produces an expert who can offer us salvation from our superstitions, and all we end up with is another superstition! If it takes someone like Freud to save us from our neuroses, what’s it gonna take to save us from Freud? WOMAN Oh, I get it. Freud. Of course. He’s Jewish. Freud’s Jewish, and you think the Jews… POUND I thought we were talking dreams. WOMAN We are. POUND “Viennese sewage! America’s been up Freud’s asshole for twenty years.” WOMAN But the fact that he’s Jewish… POUND PussyKIKEeatrists! The conspiracy of Jews is responsible for everything wrong with the world, including the publishing business! Read TheProtocols. The Ten Commandments is “Chewlaw”. A lot of regulations not based on any ethic whatsodam but merely aimed at imposing fines for the benefit of priests and levys. The jew book has been filling bughouses with nuts ever since they set up such institutions. WOMAN That’s a very harsh assessment. POUND What they’ve done to mankind is worse. WOMAN You had a lot to say about them in the radio broadcasts, didn’t you? POUND I wouldn’t hurt a fly. (The WOMAN consults her note pad) WOMAN On the ninth of April, 1942, you said that “… the United States has been invaded by vermin, meaning the Jews, and that Roosevelt belonged in an insane asylum…” POUND Too good for him. WOMAN On the twenty-third of April, you told your audience that if the American public had had the sense to eliminate Roosevelt and his Jews or the Jews and their Roosevelt at the last election, America would’ve never gone to war. POUND They’ve known for years what I think about ‘em. WOMAN You have signed letters with “Heil Hitler” and swastikas. You’ve even described Hitler as a saint and a martyr. Do you hate the Jews that much? POUND As a whole, no. No, on the whole I have a bigger quarrel with the Irish. But I can’t see what any of this has to do with the indictment. I wasn’t indicted for anti-Semitism, was I? WOMAN No. POUND Well, I’m glad we can agree on that. WOMAN You knew what you were saying, though, didn’t you? POUND No one understood a damn thing! WOMAN But you knew what you were saying. (A SIGNIFICANT PAUSE) POUND Yes! WOMAN You know what Hitler did with traitors, don’t you? (Beat) He hung them with piano wire. (SHE plucks the string of a mandolin lying on the desk as SHE gives each victim’s name) WOMAN (Continued) Von Witzleben POUND A-Flat. WOMAN Hase POUND C-Major. WOMAN Von Stauffenburg. POUND No! Stauffenburg was shot. Nothing to do with piano wire. (Snatching the mandolin away from her) Wonderful imagination, my dear. Taken by music, are we? WOMAN You can’t see it, can you? POUND And what about Vivaldi? Or don’t he count? WOMAN Lucky for him he wasn’t Jewish. POUND Think I would’ve left him unheard, eh? WOMAN Do you really hate them that much? POUND One must take them individually, my dear. WOMAN Not like they were taken at Auschwitz, you mean. POUND There weren’t any gas ovens in Italy. WOMAN And not very much justice, either. POUND Ask the Rothschilds about justice. WOMAN And what about the Cohens… and the Blums… and the Goldsteins? POUND Friends of yours, are they? WOMAN You seem to have a preoccupation with tribal people. POUND My mind wanders. Nomad. (More emphatic) No mad! WOMAN You think life would’ve been more bearable if the brown shirts had taken over? POUND That’s got nothing to do with it… And stop telling me what I think! WOMAN I’m trying to understand you, Mr Pound. POUND Well, you’ll not understand a damn thing until you understand the money system. How many times do I have to say it? WOMAN Getting angry isn’t going to help. POUND “Five million young people without jobs! One hundred thousand violent crimes! FOUR million adult illiterates! 3rd term of FDR: CASE for the prosecution!” WOMAN You could say that about a lot of countries. POUND But not the richest country in the world. WOMAN It’s not as simple as that. POUND The truth is always simple. It is only the Lie that is complicated. WOMAN And you have all the answers. POUND No country can suppress truth and live well. WOMAN And what about patriotism? What about loyalty and human decency? Don’t they count for anything? POUND Oh, I’m all for national pride, my dear. You know me. But you’re a fool if you think you can have loyalty to something you don’t understand. The horror is: those in power know even less about what’s going on than you do! Or I do! So long as the papers arrive every morning and the toast don’t burn, we are quite content to believe it all has meaning. Life in the monkeyhouse. WOMAN You’re very lucky, you know, being an American citizen. In another country, they would’ve thrown away the key. POUND Yes, in a free country they keep dangling it in front of your face, just out of reach. WOMAN At least we have equality and freedom of choice. POUND Too many choices, too many pies, too many digits, tho’ a finite number of thumbs and fingers; ergo: apple, peach an’ punkin - even the though of ‘em - don’t seem to satisfy. America should’ve lost the war. Look how the Japs prosper! WOMAN You are unhappy about the result of the war? POUND The trouble with modern warfare is that it never gives you a chance to kill the right people. And yes, I am unhappy. (Beat) You fancy a cup of tea? WOMAN No, thank you. POUND Good. Nothing so undramatic as a cup of tea. (Beat) What about a bagel, then? WOMAN Nothing. POUND Provolone? WOMAN I’m not hungry. POUND For anything? WOMAN I’ve eaten. (Pause) POUND Maybe there’s nothing to do but give up speaking altogether. I should’ve taken my day in court when I had the chance. (The WOMAN makes a note in her pad. POUND gazes down at her) POUND (Continued) Your pen’s leaking. (Hands her a tissue) WOMAN Thank you. POUND Don’t mention it. (SHE wipes her fingers and her pen as POUND moves to his bed and sits down) WOMAN Are you satisfied with the treatment you’ve been receiving here? POUND What treatment? WOMAN The counseling… the care… POUND The bastards haven’t even arrived at a diagnosis! WOMAN You have feelings of melancholia? POUND In abundance. WOMAN Fits of depression? POUND Unmitigated! WOMAN A sense of isolation? POUND It’s not exactly the YMCA WOMAN You don’t feel at home in America? POUND I live in an insane asylum. Of course I feel at home. WOMAN That’s not what I meant. POUND Well, you can spend a lifetime getting clear about what you mean. (Pause) WOMAN What do you want, Mr Pound? (Pause) POUND A new civilization! (A PROFOUND SILENCE) WOMAN If you were to be tried, and acquitted, would you stay in the United States? POUND And go to football games? And the World Series? WOMAN Yes. POUND (Warming up) And sing The Star-Spangled Banner… and eat turkey and cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving… and television? WOMAN I suppose. POUND Oh! (Rising) “Oh, the thought of what America / the thought of what America / the thought of what America would be like if the Classics had a wide circulation, oh well, it troubles my sleep!” (The WOMAN stares back, nonplussed) WOMAN I take it that means no. POUND I don’t see that it’s any one’s damn business what I do when I get out. WOMAN There’s some concern your criticisms of the United States might be exploited by a foreign power. POUND Which goes to show how little they know about history. I certainly don’t feel like going anywhere, not until I get my say. WOMAN You can say whatever you like. POUND In court! WOMAN You had the chance. You pleaded insanity. POUND I hadn’t realized before what a compliment it was to be hanged. WOMAN The psychiatrists’ reports from the detention centre in Pisa said you were sane. POUND And no one listened to ‘em. WOMAN You don’t really want this to go to court, do you? POUND The question is: am I right? WOMAN The question is: are you sane? Maybe you’re not as crazy as everyone thinks. POUND Oh, they’re going to love hearing that down at the Justice Department. Locking up a sane man in an asylum for nearly thirteen years. Yes, that sounds like the American Way. WOMAN You’re very good at confusing the issue, Mr Pound. POUND I’m not confused. WOMAN I’m beginning to see that. POUND Don’t look too closely. WOMAN I’m not a fool, Mr Pound. POUND Then stop acting like one. WOMAN You say you want to go to court, and yet… you have everything you want right here. Wine, chess, caviar, tennis, a constant stream of visitors… POUND Yes. Everything except freedom. WOMAN Doctor Barnes says you’re writing more than ever. It’s not so very different from being on a literary fellowship, is it? POUND I’ve always said America owed its ten best poets a living, but this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. You’d like to see me get the chair, wouldn’t you? WOMAN No. POUND Think I’ve got it coming, eh? WOMAN It’s not up to me. POUND (Framing the words) She always gets her man. WOMAN Look, I don’t agree with what you’ve done, and a lot of what you say I find completely despicable, but I don’t believe in capital punishment, either. That’s what makes it so difficult. POUND Yes. A bitch of a situation. WOMAN We’re talking about your life, Mr Pound. POUND We’re talking about the rights of the individual! WOMAN The individual doesn’t always come first. POUND What’d they have to do to buy you off. WOMAN No one’s bought me. POUND Then why’re you going against what you believe? WOMAN Sometimes the national interest is more important. POUND And whose interest is that… specifically? WOMAN Anyone who loves his country. POUND A human being has a duty to avoid servility, my dear. WOMAN People can abuse freedom, Mr Pound. POUND Only when they ain’t free. WOMAN You threatened the United States. POUND Only the cranks who are running it. (Beat) What’re you afraid of? WOMAN Not you. POUND What is it, then? The gentle nudge of oblivion, or merely politics? WOMAN You aren’t a political prisoner, Mr Pound. POUND No, I’m here for committing accuracy. WOMAN Is that what you call it? POUND I thought you had principles. WOMAN Like you? POUND C’mon, open your eyes. They’ve kept me locked up here all these years cos they didn’t know what to do with me. They should’ve hung me in 1946 - it would’ve been easier. Or maybe they could’ve organized it to look like suicide. WOMAN The Department isn’t out to get you, Mr Pound. POUND No. It’s you they’re after! Sending you down here to this dreary rat-trap, making you listen to a crazy old fool. A good bureaucrat never makes a decision. Rule number one, two and three, my dear. Think about it. Say I’m mad, and they’ll have to leave me here. America’s skeleton in the closet, the national treasure it deserves. Not such a good option. But if you say I’m sane, well, they’ll have to give me the forum of a courtroom. They’ll have to let me speak. And maybe, even, the firing squad. You wouldn’t like that now, would you dear? No, we’re both on trial here. WOMAN You don’t know what you’re talking about. POUND Of course I don’t! I’m paranoid, and depressed, and untrustworthy. But you’re the sucker who’s making the recommendations. (Beat) You never should’ve got involved in this, you know. You should’ve stayed right out of it. WOMAN I think I’m capable of looking after myself. POUND I’ll bet nobody else wanted it. WOMAN Nobody else was asked. POUND That’s right! Because this situation - this forgotten piece of the war, this demented old porcupine - is a bitch of an embarrassment to them. And it has nothing to do with my mental health. This is about the abuse of language. It’s an exercise in scape-goating and, I’m afraid, you’re it! WOMAN I don’t believe that for a moment. POUND And that’s exactly what will allow them to get away with it. WOMAN Get away with what? POUND The lies. The treachery. The hypocrisy. WOMAN Your mental condition is what the Department is interested in. POUND Like shit it is! This is about justice and injustice. The right to confide or not to confide. To decide what we keep and what we give away. WOMAN Why’re you telling me this? POUND Because I want to know what is mine! How far do you people go? WOMAN I think you like it here. Yes. The noble victim. The abused visionary. The genius in the madhouse. That offers you a lot more scope than the role of the elderly, almost-forgotten poet in exile, doesn’t it? POUND It’s heartening to see you’re not letting objectivity obscure the issues. WOMAN You’re the centre of attention. Living proof of the injustice of the system. You don’t really want to be released at all, do you? You’ve been using us all along. POUND I certainly have not dropped an atom bomb on anyone. WOMAN The bomb was used to stop the war. POUND The bomb was used so’s they’d have something to show for the twenty million bucks they spent. WOMAN If you hadn’t been a poet - if you’d been factory worker, or a teacher, or even a doctor - no voice would’ve been raised in your defense. But if the court finds you guilty, you’re guilty twice. For treason as a citizen, and for the poet’s betrayal of everything that is decent in human civilization. POUND Go on, say it. Say it! Old Ez is as nutty as a fruitcake. That’s what you think. WOMAN (Calmly) No I don’t. POUND Yes you do. WOMAN Stop acting like a child. POUND Maybe we can organize a guillotine instead of a hanging. WOMAN I have a job to do, Mr Pound. POUND Oh yes… a real team player. WOMAN A loyal citizen. POUND Loyal to fragments. WOMAN Loyal to my government… to democracy… to the values that America stands for. POUND To have allegiance to what is scattered is usury, my dear. (Beat) By god, how they tempt us! Why, they’re probably not even paying you what you’re worth. WOMAN Money has nothing to do with it. POUND Money has everything to do with it! WOMAN Not for me. POUND No? WOMAN Not at all. POUND Positive? WOMAN Absolutely. POUND All right, then, sling us fifty bucks. (HE smiles) WOMAN I’m glad you find me so amusing. POUND Bottom of the totem pole, eh? WOMAN No. POUND New kid on the block. WOMAN I’m not a kid. POUND Think you can win them over? WOMAN It’s not about winning. POUND No, it’s about my life! WOMAN It’s about finding the truth! POUND Long odds, my dear. I’ve seen the form. WOMAN So what do you suggest, Mr Pound? What should I do? Tell them you’re sane and give you a chance to speak, knowing they won’t listen, knowing they’ll probably execute you… or lie about your mental condition and leave you here? POUND You wouldn’t lie about something like that. WOMAN I have never lied in my life. POUND Yes… a Methodist. (The WOMAN turns away. SHE stuffs the note pad into her briefcase, snaps the case shut, and reaches for her overcoat) POUND (Continued) Where are you going? WOMAN Home. POUND Home! But what about my questions? WOMAN What questions are those? POUND Well, it’s been a bit one-sided, don’t you think? A bit of a one-way street. WOMAN Maybe next time. POUND But there may not be a next time. I may never see you again. There are things you can tell me. WOMAN I doubt it. (SHE turns to leave) POUND You call this justice? (Beat) Wait! (SHE stops) POUND (Continued) All right. All right then. I, I know I’ve been a little difficult, but… WOMAN You’ve been abysmal! (Beat) You have no idea what it’s like. I don’t have to prove I can do this job. Not to you, not to anyone. POUND You take them too seriously. WOMAN And you don’t? (Pause) POUND I am sure we will remember the Fifties with a great deal more fondness than we felt while living through them. WOMAN They said you’d be difficult. They warned me. But I came along today with an open mind. (Beat) You have every right to despise what you think I represent, Mr Pound, given the fact you’ve been locked away here all these years. But that doesn’t give you the right to insult me. You think you’re the only person who’s ever been persecuted? Do you really believe that the poetry legitimizes what you’ve done and said? (Beat) I may not be an artist or a poet, like you, but I have feelings too, and they can be hurt. POUND I’ll wager the Department doesn’t know what it’s got, having you on the payroll. WOMAN That’s why I got your case. POUND I’m honored. (The WOMAN stiffens, trying to control her anger) WOMAN You smug, self-congratulating old fascist. You think you’re so smart, don’t you? Even after twelve years in this hole, you still think you know more than everyone else. The poor, misunderstood genius. The helpless victim who believes he has all the answers if only the world will listen to him. But a coward’s still a coward no matter what he hides behind, and poetry won’t change that. You’re wrong, and you know you’re wrong. Mussolini was a tyrant. Hitler was a butcher! And there are probably just as many poor Jews out there who have been done in by the banks as anyone else. But in your world you only use the ingredients that suit you. Well, as far as this public servant is concerned, you can go straight to hell! (SHE moves to the door) (POUND sits on the edge of his bed, drained. The WOMAN stops, and turns to him) WOMAN (Continued) Mr Pound? (Silence) Mr Pound? (Silence) Mr Pound, this won’t help you, you know. Sooner or later you’ll have to speak. (Silence) Mr Pound? (SHE crosses to him, and sits beside him on the bed) WOMAN (Continued) Mr Pound! (Beat) Mr Pound, where are you? (Pause) POUND Why, in hell, my dear. In hell. (They regard each other) WOMAN I guess there’s nothing more to say. POUND Everyone is alone. That is what our culture has produced - a pain deeper than politics. WOMAN What am I supposed to do? POUND That’s the wrong question. WOMAN What’re we supposed to do? POUND Let’s not turn this in to a farce. WOMAN I agree. POUND We’re not ignorant people. We’re not dumb animals. WOMAN You are a very difficult man, Mr Pound. POUND Yes, my dear, I know. A real challenge. (HE moves closer) So… tell me about Gone With The Wind. (Stage lights out) END ACT 1 ACT TWO SETTING: POUND’S room. Messier than before. AT RISE: Vivaldi’s music is playing. Stage lights up. POUND pulls out an old suitcase and throws it open on his bed. HE turns, surveying the room. HE picks up his alarm clock from a bedside chair and places it in the suitcase. Music fades. POUND hums tunelessly to himself as HE sorts through the chaos. HE retrieves what HE wants, guided by some kind of inner logic. Is HE getting ready for a trial, or preparing himself for the death house? HE extracts a few articles of clothing from a dresser drawer: a sweater, shirt and bathrobe. HE places these haphazardly into the suitcase. Moving to his desk, HE stares at a sheet of paper in his type- writer. HE reads it silently, then picks up two books, weighing them appreciatively before crossing back to his bed. HE places the books in the suitcase. What next? HE glances round the room, gathers up his binoculars, his hairbrush, and then, unable to resist the temptation, HE hurries back to his desk. HE sits down, scanning the results of his latest re-write. POUND (Reading) Sic semper tyrannis… A brackish tribulation. The knowledge of plants and birds serves better than a stipend. A direct feeling… POUND (Continued) (Weighing the words) A direct feeling… (Becoming aware of a presence in the room. HE turns to the audience, squinting, shading his eyes with his hand) What?! Oh. You again. Can’t get enough, eh? Enjoying the nuthouse, are we? (Pulls the paper from the typewriter and wads it up) Government by the peep-hole, of the peep-hole, for the peep-hole. (Tosses the paper over his shoulder) “A cage”: the metaphor too obvious, too alliterative, didactic, humorless; tho’ useful on occasion. Leaden diadem of the banking mentality: Life in the monkeyhouse. Not such a good place for poetry, but. . . “no man has perennial fortune, slow foot or swift foot, death delays but for a season.” (HE follows the flight of a fly through the air. HE reaches for a manuscript and holds it at the ready. The fly lights on his typewriter. HE observes it for a moment before slamming the manuscript down. HE examines the flattened insect, then flicks it with his finger) Better to say: Montana is in the air. Big sky ceiling. A walk through deserted streets of one’s childhood home. The joke is on me. (HE stands and moves slowly downstage. His manner is conversational at first, as if addressing someone in the audience, but becomes more dramatic as he warms up) POUND (Continued) How long have you been in? (Beat) I see. You’re not in. That’s what they all say. You’re not going anywhere though, are you? (Beat) I didn’t think so. Yes, I understand. Capisce! Never the proposals that get in the way, only the stupid questions and inattention to answers; the blind assent to speed: the headlong rush into untried truth because he said this and she said that, so long as everything is quick, so long as everything is sweet. As if life could be conceived and born in a night’s sleep; toddling by breakfast; high school on the way to work; college and a perfect marriage by noon; old age for lunch; and a palsied decline in time for tea. Setting for an early hour the alarm clock by Death; and Heaven: another sleep. So how is it that Men and Women make it through another day with such velocity, with so little deliberation? (Beat) Freedom is a wishbone caught up in the hand of a child who believes in magic and cannot speak, for speaking does not make wishes happen. What is closest to us must always remain a secret, and there is tragedy in this. Syntax cannot change this room. Something more is required. . . or something less. Courage: the rudimentary ingredient. Better to reflect the world without a word POUND (Continued) than talk ourselves to death. But make no mistake - this is no theatre of ideas, only lucid dream. In here, the passing show lacks the usual requisite action, but should do in any case. The anticipation of a long journey is still possible, even when there is no horizon. (Vivaldi’s music fades up as the stage lights fade down, giving the impression that the play is over. POUND glances round) POUND (Continued) Wait! (The music stops, stage lights fade up) POUND (Continued) But how? How did I begin to leave this place where the dead walk and the living are made of cardboard? (Beat) Bring it back! (Beat) A second time? (The voice of a tormented, human soul can be heard howling in another ward. It is joined by other voices. POUND takes everything out of his suitcase, putting back each item exactly where HE found it. The last item - the alarm clock - stops him. HE pauses over it, his finger drawing a slow, deliberate circle over its face, as if turning back its hands. The howling subsides) POUND (Continued) The other day, two women came to visit. Yes, two. One, who did most of the talking; and one who was so quiet it was like she wasn’t here at all. They looked like perfect candidates for the Ez-uversity… (BETSY, a university student in her early 20s, enters with a load of books and papers, and a portable tape recorder. SHE deposits these on POUND’S desk) BETSY Mr Pound? POUND (Looking up) Hullo! BETSY I brought the research. POUND Research? BETSY From the library… at Columbia. POUND How did you get in? BETSY The, uh, orderly. He… he said it would be okay. POUND He did? BETSY I hope we haven’t come at a bad time. POUND We? (Beat) Who are you? BETSY Betsy. POUND Betsy? BETSY Don’t you remember? POUND What? BETSY Me. Being here. POUND When? BETSY Mr Pound! POUND What did we talk about? BETSY All sorts of things. POUND That narrows it down. BETSY You were trying to tell me about the Australian Aborigines. You were complaining that the library here at the hospital was no good. POUND And the orderly let you in. BETSY (Nodding) Mr Brierson. POUND And he didn’t warn you about me? BETSY No. (Pause) POUND C’mere. (BETSY hesitates) POUND (Continued) C’mon, c’mon! (SHE moves closer. POUND gives her the once-over) POUND (Continued) What did Brierson say? BETSY He said you were feeling depressed. He thought you might not speak to us. POUND Yup, that’s Brierson. Always splendidly candid about my condition. BETSY He wasn’t mean about it or anything. POUND No, no, of course not. The man’s a saint. BETSY He said he didn’t think you should be here, that you were only confused. POUND The guy has no concept of anything at all. BETSY He was critical of the Justice Department. He… he said the State was barbaric. POUND Barbaric, eh? Quite a likeable chap, really. BETSY He said that if you’d just kept quiet you probably wouldn’t… POUND Kept quiet! Nonsense! “The man of understanding can no more sit quiet while his country lets its literature decay than a good doctor could sit quietly watching some ignorant child infect itself with tuberculosis under the impression it was merely eating jam tarts.” BETSY It doesn’t make any sense, does it? POUND What? BETSY Calling ourselves modern, and then locking our poets away in insane asylums. POUND “Modern” ended with Hiroshima. BETSY But you’re a great poet, Mr Pound. POUND I’m also a helluva tennis player. So what! BETSY It’s wrong. What they’re doing to you. POUND You’re not from the Department, are you? BETSY No. Margaret and I are from New York. From Columbia University. POUND Margaret? BETSY (Gesturing) My friend. (POUND looks but sees nothing) BETSY (Continued) We caught the Greyhound from New York last night. POUND And people wonder why I’m paranoid. BETSY Are you sure you don’t remember me, Mr Pound? POUND Maybe it’ll come to me. You’re… you’re a teacher, right? BETSY Students. English majors. POUND Ah! (Beat) Well… uh… make yourself comfortable. (BETSY sits on the edge of the desk, letting her feet swing free) POUND From, uh, New York? BETSY Both of us. POUND (Confidentially) Let’s leave her out of it, shall we? BETSY We can’t do that, Mr Pound. POUND Why not? BETSY It wouldn’t be right. POUND Oh. Yes, of course. (Beat) And the orderly let you in. BETSY I think he felt sorry for us. We’d come such a long way. POUND And you didn’t have to bribe him? BETSY We didn’t have anything to bribe him with. POUND Uh-huh. (Beat) I doubt that. (BETSY glances down at the desk. SHE reaches for the typewriter) POUND (Continued) Don’t fiddle! (SHE withdraws her hand) POUND (Continued) Quick reactions… I like that. BETSY I’m sorry. POUND So you should be. (HE moves to his desk, covering the typewriter with a towel) BETSY Were you working on something? POUND Between distractions. BETSY If you’d like us to leave… POUND No! No, it’ll keep. One of the virtues of poetry. . . unlike pate. (HE picks up a few stray sheets paper and pegs them to his clothesline) BETSY I brought a tape recorder. POUND A what? BETSY A tape recorder. The last time I was here you said it would be okay if I made some recordings. POUND What sort of recordings? BETSY Of you. POUND I don’t remember that. In fact, come to think of it, I don’t remember you at all. BETSY You said if I brought you the information you wanted you’d let me record you reading some of your poems. POUND Was I awake? BETSY Mr Pound! POUND Sometimes I nod off in the middle of conversations, and people think it means I’m agreeing with them. BETSY We had a long conversation about it. POUND We did? BETSY I’m not making it up. (POUND is distracted by a sheet of paper on the floor. HE picks it up and examines it) BETSY (Continued) You said you thought it was a good idea. (POUND pegs the sheet of paper to his clothesline) BETSY (Continued) Mr Pound? (POUND continues looking at the paper HE has pegged to the line) BETSY (Continued) Mr Pound! POUND Call me “Grampaw”. BETSY Grampaw? POUND All my young visitors call me Grampaw. (BETSY smiles) POUND (Continued) And try being a little less pushy, will you? (Aside) I have to direct the thing as well. (POUND and BETSY look into each other’s eyes) POUND (Continued) Enchanting. BETSY What? POUND Your eyes. BETSY Thank you. (POUND lingers for a moment, then turns away) POUND So, you’ve been travelling all night, huh? BETSY Yes. Margaret and I. POUND Margaret? (HE looks) Ah, yes. BETSY She’s very shy. Sometimes I even forget she’s there, myself. Very self-contained, though. POUND Yes. Tremendous self-discipline. BETSY She’s a very good listener, too. POUND I’ve heard of bit parts, but this is ridiculous. BETSY Excuse me? POUND Just talking to myself. One of the fringe benefits of being here. Ought to be more careful, eh? They might think I’m mad. BETSY I don’t think you’re mad at all. You just see things a little differently from most people. POUND Is that it? BETSY I’m sure you’re just as sane as I am. POUND Well, that’s a relief. (Beat) How do you feel? BETSY A little tired, I guess, but. . . POUND No, no, no. I mean, how do you feel? Are you sure you’re not from just down the hall? BETSY No. From New York. POUND Oh. . . good. (BETSY gazes round the room) BETSY Gee, there’s not much light is there? POUND No. They’re very particular about the light. They don’t want the little there is escaping out the windows, so they keep them closed. Think about it. Bureaucracies understand these things. Would you care for a glass of wine? BETSY They allow you wine? POUND Almost everything! Free country, you know. BETSY Gee. I never knew about the wine. POUND What about a sandwich? You look like you could use a sandwich. (HE bolts to the fridge) Lemme see… lemme see… what’ve we got here? Bacon… marmalade… ketchup. Ah! What about some mayonnaise? (HE turns, holding up a jar of mayonnaise) From Havana! BETSY Cuban mayonnaise? POUND Hemingway. (HE takes the lid off and sniffs) Totally eclipsed by his prose, I’m afraid, but then it’s not easy being a Renaissance man these days. (HE samples some with his finger) BETSY A glass of wine would be nice, thank you. POUND Wine. Right! (HE replaces the lid and returns the jar to the fridge. HE crosses to the desk, opens a drawer and rummages through the litter) There’s a very passable drop of red here somewhere. (HE pulls out several bits of paper, a 45 rpm record, a few playing cards, a crumpled magazine, a couple of empty jars, and a tennis ball. The ball bounces away. Finally, HE extracts an already-open bottle of red wine. KE holds it up) Chateauneuf du Pape, 1953. cummings left it when he was here last week. He knows I loathe red. BETSY e.e. cummings? POUND You know cummings, do you? (Uncorks the bottle) BETSY He’s one of Margaret’s favorite poets! He was at Columbia last year reading his poetry, wasn’t he Margaret? (POUND glances in the direction of the unseen Margaret) POUND A devotee, huh? BETSY She identifies with him. POUND Uh-huh. BETSY She’s read everything he’s ever published. POUND Extraordinary. One is never very sure where the lovers of verse are these days, and then when you meet one… well… (Beat) Is Margaret drinking? (BETSY shakes her head) POUND (Continued) Bad liver? BETSY Eczema. She breaks out all over. POUND How irritating! BETSY Milk has the same effect on her. (POUND glances in Margaret’s direction) POUND Poor thing. You just can’t win, can you? (Beat) Looks like she’s been a mite heavy-handed with the vanishing creme. BETSY Most people just ignore her. POUND No wonder. BETSY My mother doesn’t see her at all. POUND Really! (HE pours the wine into the two, empty jars) BETSY You and Mr cummings are good friends, aren’t you? POUND We’ve had our spats. Last time he came here it ended in an argument over some confounded notion of his that he knew the language of blue-jays. . . and that man is out on the street, mind you! BETSY Did he mean it? POUND Course he meant it! Good poets always mean it. Cantankerous old bastard. (Beat) Here. (HE hands the jar of wine to BETSY) BETSY Thank you. POUND Don’t mention it. (Lifting his glass) To your health. BETSY And long life. POUND Why not! (They drink. POUND doesn’t like the taste) BETSY It’s good. POUND Hmmm. (BETSY has another sip. They sit in silence for a moment) POUND (In unison) So what possessed you to…? BETSY (In unison) If someone had told me…. (Pause) POUND (In unison) Is this the first time… BETSY (In unison) Margaret and I were… (Another pause) POUND Go ahead. BETSY No, you. POUND No, I insist. BETSY After you. POUND What did you say your name was? BETSY Betsy. POUND Betsy. BETSY Short for Elizabeth… like the hospital. It was my grandmother’s name. She was from Boston. POUND Boston! BETSY She worked on the Sacco and Vanzetti Defense Committee. POUND (Ironically) Terrific. BETSY She was so upset when they were executed… she stayed in England for ten years. My aunt says I’m just like her, only she never had an interest in poetry… my grandmother, I mean. She was more of a political animal, I guess. You know, a dreamer. Everyone thought she was terribly eccentric. POUND Sounds like my father. BETSY Was he in politics? POUND Politics? No. No, as a matter of fact, he was an assayer at the Mint, in Philadelphia. Homer. When I was eight he took me down to watch them counting the money. All the silver money in America was counted that year. They didn’t miss a nickel. Men stripped to the waist, sweating under the gas flares, shoveling coins into the counting machines. Money was real in those days, y’know. It meant something. BETSY Yeah. I had to borrow fifteen dollars for the bus tickets. POUND That’s how it starts. (BETSY places her jar on the desk and picks up her handbag) BETSY Would you mind if I smoked? POUND Are you getting hot? (BETSY looks puzzled) POUND (Continued) Please…. go ahead. I won’t tell. (BETSY extracts a packet of cigarettes from her bag) BETSY Would you like one? POUND Maybe later. (BETSY shakes a cigarette from the packet) BETSY Margaret thinks I smoke too much. She keeps telling me it’ll stunt my growth. POUND Yes, well, uh…. Margaret looks like she’d know about that sort of thing. (POUND picks up a box of matches, lights the cigarette. Pushing aside a heap of manuscripts, HE uncovers an ashtray, places it on the edge of the desk) (BETSY exhales slowly… sighs) BETSY That’s better. (An appreciation of silence) BETSY So… (Taking another puff) Can we start the recordings? POUND Huh? BETSY You know… something from The Cantos maybe, or… well, anything you like, really. (POUND stares at her in mild disbelief as she moves to set up the tape recorder) BETSY Maybe you could just talk for a while. POUND I thought we’d settled that. BETSY But you promised. POUND I have no memory of promising any such thing. (Beat) Why’s it so important, anyway? BETSY Because what you have to say is worth listening to. POUND Nonsense. BETSY Because it’s a way of making people understand. POUND Good Gawd. BETSY People will listen. POUND Like they did to the radio broadcasts. BETSY I’m talking about poetry, Grampaw. POUND Part of some English assignment, is it? BETSY No. POUND Come on! BETSY It’s not! POUND You don’t have to lie to me. BETSY I’m not lying. POUND Trying to make a name for yourself, are you? BETSY No! POUND Well what is it, then? BETSY You said a poet should sing what he cares about. POUND Not when it means diverting attention. They might end up thinking I like it here. BETSY But it’s important. POUND Bird in cage does not sing. BETSY If we could just record a few. . . POUND Bird in cage does not sing! One finishes saying “cage” between clenched teeth. You notice? The physicality of the word - the way the body imitates the meaning: Bird in cage does not sing. BETSY I wouldn’t even mind getting that. POUND Ah, my dear girl, can’t you see? The main spring’s busted, and nothing can put it right, not until the record’s been set straight. I have wasted too much time with poetry in here. BETSY You’ve been here so long… it would affect anybody. POUND But I ain’t crazy! BETSY I know. POUND You do? BETSY I never thought you were crazy to begin with. POUND If only I’d studied Confucius earlier I never would’ve gotten into this mess. (Beat) Maybe I should’ve stopped the broadcasts after Pearl Harbor. BETSY What you said on the radio didn’t cause the deaths of any Americans. POUND They still said I was a traitor. BETSY You tried to stop the war. POUND No. I said too much… always too much where it didn’t count. They’ll never let me forget it, either. BETSY People make mistakes, Grampaw. POUND This was never part of the deal, y’know. I was double- crossed. They were supposed to release me after the insanity hearing. Thirteen years in the bughouse was never part of the agenda. BETSY Is that what they said? POUND They didn’t say a damn thing. It was all nudges and winks. The doctors have been lying for years, telling ‘em I’m incompetent. Ask Overholser. He knows damn well I have my wits about me. Not that he’d ever admit it. BETSY They won’t be able to keep you here forever. They’ll have to release you some time. POUND Not until they’ve tried me, and they can’t try me unless I can prove to ‘em I’m sane. BETSY But you’re safe here. POUND Safe! (Beat) Oh yes. I’ve been talking myself to sleep for years, deluding myself into believing that the safety of this hell-hole was preferable to taking the bastards on. Well, if I’d been as crazy as they said I was, I’d be seein’ things by now. What was I afraid of? Death? The fear of death is Death. BETSY You mustn’t let them put you on trial, Grampaw. POUND Why not? Why shouldn’t I stand up and tell ‘em what I think? You said so yourself - I’m just as sane as you are… you and Margaret. BETSY They won’t let you win. They’ll just say you’re guilty and execute you. That’s how they work. You’re not like other people The fact that you’re a poet means nothing to them. They don’t care about poetry. POUND Survival at any cost, eh? BETSY I don’t want you to die, Grampaw. Not by their hands. It’s not time. You have more to write, more to say. You can’t do anything if you’re dead. POUND “If a man ain’t prepared to take some risks for what he believes in, either his beliefs are no good, or he’s no good.” So which is it? BETSY They’ll destroy you. POUND No one can hide the truth forever. (HE turns away. HE notices the books and notes BETSY has deposited on his desk) POUND (Continued) What’s all this? BETSY You said you wanted some information about the Australian Aborigines. It was part of our agreement. POUND Wait a minute. I know you. You’re s’posed to be a Wednesday. BETSY What? POUND What day is today? BETSY Saturday. POUND That’s right. That explains it. We were talking about the Aborigines. BETSY That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. POUND And you were supposed to come back on a Wednesday. It was you, wasn’t it? BETSY I couldn’t get away. I had exams. POUND Or were you a Tuesday? BETSY You were asking about the Wandjina. I… I brought everything I could find. POUND The who? BETSY The Wandjina. POUND Wandjina? BETSY You said it might be a key. POUND A key? What sort of key? BETSY You said you thought it might have something to do with you being here. POUND Wandjina. BETSY That’s what you said. (Beat) Maybe if you read through the notes… POUND “And Tom wore a tin disc, a circular can-lid with his name on it, solely: for Wandjina has lost his mouth… a man on whom the sun has gone down.” (Pause) Wandjina. Yes. Of course. BETSY Grampaw? POUND I remember one summer walking along an old road and discovering a dead deer. You could feel its presence there, weeks, even months, later. I’m sure if I was there now I would still feel it. Then there was that fishing hole full of edible red-fin… and that special, shady tree near Sant’ Ambrogio - a eucalypt, down the hill from the villa… (HE extracts something from his pocket) Here. (HE shows BETSY the object in the palm of his hand) BETSY What is it? POUND A nut. From the tree. BETSY Oh. (SHE reaches out to touch it, but POUND withdraws it into himself. HE puts it back in his pocket) POUND Places full of power. Sacred places. Places where one feels a contentment, a belonging; where one feels whole. BETSY I’ve always loved the subway. The smell of cigar smoke… woolen coats in winter… the newsprint. It makes me think of when I was a girl. POUND You grew up in the city? BETSY New Rochelle. POUND Ah! BETSY I still love it. POUND That’s what I’m talking about! Those special, personal places; not special by chance, but because we find parts of ourselves in ‘em, and leave parts of ourselves behind. The parts of the world we create. Like the Wandjina. (HE moves to his clothesline filing system) A long time ago, some young people - students of Frobenius – came to my house in Rapallo. They had sketches they’d made on one of their expeditions… (HE grabs hold of a large piece of paper, turns it round to reveal a full- length drawing of a Wandjina figure) Drawings like this one. There are several hundred of them on the walls of caves in the hinterland of Auss’ralia. Look at the expression! It’s as if he was sitting squarely on top of his own anxiety. (HE hangs it prominently on the wall over the bed) BETSY They look sort of like spacemen, don’t they? POUND Don’t be daft! They’ve got nothing to do with spacemen. (Beat) If intuition has a face, there it is! And someone has actually drawn it! BETSY Without mouths. POUND Yes. (Beat) So, what happened to the mouths? BETSY They weren’t needed any more. POUND Weren’t needed? BETSY The Aborigines believe the Wandjina created the world, the entire world, with words, with names. All they had to do was name something and it would exist. Trees, mountains, animals. Everything. They say if the Wandjina hadn’t been stopped they would’ve made too many things. So the mouths were taken away. POUND Taken away? BETSY Removed. To stop the names. POUND To stop them speaking. BETSY If they’d kept going, they would’ve destroyed the world. There would’ve been too many things. POUND (A revelation) So it was a punishment! (Beat) I knew it. If only I hadn’t been so dumb. BETSY I think you better read the notes. POUND (Pointing to drawing) The tribe that made these had sixteen words for water. Nomad, the antithesis of noman, knows the sacred places; is fluid and capable of exactitude, without writing, without books or libraries, precisely because he is in his place. The Land is alive It has everything to do with his life! Sixteen words for water! (Beat) How many do you have? BETSY (Shrugs) Water. POUND Exactly. A vain abstraction aided by adjectives. BETSY Why does it matter? POUND Because rain water is different from surface water, and salt water is not the same as fresh. It has to do with immediacy - a knowledge of the world at first-hand. “Periplum, not as land looks on a map but as sea bord seen by men sailing.” Otherwise we look at life as through a two-way mirror. BETSY Sixteen words for water. POUND So how is it that the Aborigines had such ideas about the world, and never wrote a book, or built a chapel, or composed a fugue, or invented an atom bomb? BETSY Maybe they had no need for them. POUND Because they know who they are! “Our humanity is counterfeit; our liberty, cankered with simulation.” Wrong from the start. BETSY You can say too much sometimes, Grampaw. Sometimes you have to stop talking so that people can hear what you’ve said. POUND The difference between the Wandjina and me is that it was the gods who took their mouths away… mine was removed by the State. BETSY Sometimes silence can be more powerful than words. POUND Only when one is finished with creation. (Pause) Those without confidence in banksia and spinifex for lack of education must have thought Terra Australis a lost land - an aberrant continent - where everything is back to front. Even now, the white men wander uncertain, uncomfortable; and not for want of plumbing or electricity, but because they do not understand where they are. I am talking about the power of the Land. “No one prospers unless everyone prospers” was the bushman’s law; vis a vis: the white man’s grace sez: “if I can’t have it, you won’t either”. The stance of men who are threatened, unable to embrace the land, in the European produced self-deprecation; produces war whose language is barricade, wishing fauns cavorted on sand dunes, dreaming of genii riding kangaroo. We speak with a thousand borrowed voices, POUND (Continued) calling them our own, and wonder why we cannot trust ourselves. We define ourselves by what we are not. BETSY You are not an Aborigine, Grampaw. You are a poet… and a very great poet. POUND Yes. Ouan Jin! The man of letters. The man with an education. A man on whom the sun has gone down. (Beat) But I am also related to them! (pointing) To the Wandjina! And so are you. BETSY We are no longer tribal people. POUND We are all tribal people under the skin. And we deny this at the expense of tearing ourselves in half… POUND (Continued) which we do everyday, very well - the tearing, I mean. We have made it in to an art. Some in the name of competitiveness, some from a fear of scarcity, some believing Nature is the enemy. But the Dreaming lives in each of us - the tides of kinship and a susceptibility for seeing ourselves in the Land when we stop and look. “The gods never left us.” BETSY There are lots of different kinds of worlds. You can’t live in all of them. POUND The trick is to live even in one! BETSY The trick is to stay alive. POUND At what cost? (HE sits) BETSY You scare me, Grampaw. POUND That’s because you see me as a metaphor. But there is wisdom in recognizing that a desk is a desk, and a chair, a chair. We are not so terribly different from the Aborigines, you know… except our language does not make us custodians of the Earth, but Earth’s adversaries. A man cannot live in fragments. He must know the place he started from, and then let others know. BETSY They’ll call it treason. POUND They can call it whatever they like. But the worst treason is the one we commit against ourselves - speaking when we should be silent; or worse, being silent when we should speak. BETSY And if they kill you? POUND So long as the money-lenders sleep peacefully in their beds there will be no end to war. Two world wars in one century, and more to come, arranged by men with blank eyes, setting corpses to banquet at the behest of usury. And who pays for their greed? Us! Always. With our lives. And still we go on voting the asses in who pass the laws and make the deals so the bankers won’t go begging. “Love of money beyond all other love, gain at the expense of everything that is admirable.” Those who can still see and speak must make themselves heard. BETSY That sounds like Communism. POUND Communism! BETSY If they hear you talk like that… POUND Communism hain’t even practiced by the higher mammals! Wake up, girl! Wild dogs collaborate! I wouldn’t be caught dead with Communism. Compared to me, Eisenhower’s practically a fellow traveler. (Thinking better of his outburst) Sorry. BETSY You’re going to let them try you. POUND I’m going to say what I have to say. BETSY It won’t help. It won’t bring you any peace. POUND Peace comes from good manners, and manners are from the earth and water and the knowledge that comes of being where one belongs. I have lost contact with the Earth. BETSY I shouldn’t have come. (POUND draws closer) POUND You came here to save me, didn’t you? BETSY I tried. POUND You made at me? BETSY I love you. (A SIGNIFICANT PAUSE) (Before POUND has a chance to speak, the door to POUND’s room opens, and the WOMAN from the Justice Department enters) WOMAN Oh, I’m sorry. They didn’t tell me you had a visitor. POUND Well, well, well… the Department of Justice. (His arm raised in greeting, stopping short of the fascist salute) How are you, my dear? (They shake) WOMAN Mr Pound. POUND The pleasure is all mine. And let me introduce you to. . . WOMAN Hello Betsy. BETSY Hello. WOMAN Margaret. (POUND blinks in surprise, his glance moving between the WOMAN and the unseen Margaret) POUND You know each other? WOMAN Only professionally. (POUND turns to BETSY) BETSY ` It’s not like you think, Grampaw. POUND What do I think? BETSY I had to see you. WOMAN (To BETSY) So how did it go? BETSY I don’t want to talk about it. POUND Talk about what? WOMAN Did he tell you about Australia? BETSY Not now, please. POUND What is this? BETSY I can explain everything. POUND Did she send you? BETSY No. It’s not like that at all. She told me to stay away. POUND Would someone mind telling me what’s going on? WOMAN Betsy’s been sending us petitions for the past twelve months, trying to have you pardoned. BETSY You have no right to imprison him like this. WOMAN She thinks we want to kill you. BETSY You’ve done a pretty good job of it. WOMAN She seems to think that if I tell them you’re sane, the government will execute you. BETSY Don’t trust her, Grampaw. WOMAN She thinks you’ve been victimized. BETSY It’s true! WOMAN She identifies with you. POUND How do you two know each other? BETSY (To WOMAN) Don’t! WOMAN Betsy used to be one of my patients. BETSY You’re the one who needs a shrink. WOMAN Her mother and I are old friends. BETSY Leave her out of it! WOMAN I’m sorry if she’s disturbed you, Mr Pound. POUND Not at all. WOMAN I’ll speak to Mr Brierson. There’s obviously been a breach in security. BETSY I can explain everything, Grampaw. POUND You don’t have to. BETSY But I want you to know how I feel. POUND It’s okay. (Affectionately) You’ve already told me. (To WOMAN) She came all the way from New York. WOMAN Really! POUND She brought me the information I was looking for. (HE takes BETSY’S hand) Not that it was information, exactly. WOMAN What’s going on? POUND Oh, you would’ve had to have been here, my dear. Betsy and I… and, uh… Margaret… we’ve been having a very interesting talk, haven’t we? WOMAN I see. POUND You do? WOMAN (To BETSY) I hope you got what you wanted. BETSY I’m not talking to you. WOMAN Your mother won’t be pleased to hear about this Betsy. BETSY Then don’t tell her. POUND I don’t think there’s much of a chance of that. WOMAN Well maybe you ought to run along, then. BETSY Grampaw! POUND She’s my guest. (Pause) WOMAN Very well then. She’ll find out anyway. I’m afraid I have some bad news for you, Mr Pound. I thought I’d better come myself. POUND (To BETSY) Notice how she prolongs the suspense for dramatic effect. WOMAN It’s not what you think. POUND You told them I was sane, didn’t you? WOMAN Yes, I did. POUND Good! WOMAN I also told them I believed you’d been using insanity as a way of escaping the charges. POUND Excellent tactic! WOMAN Technically… clinically, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be put on trial. POUND Now you’re talking! BETSY Why can you just leave him alone? WOMAN I’m sorry, Mr Pound. POUND Oh, don’t be sorry, my dear. I’m looking forward to it. BETSY Haven’t you hurt him enough? WOMAN You can put your tape recorder away, Betsy. You’ve won. POUND What? WOMAN She believed it was a way of protecting. POUND Protecting me? BETSY Don’t tell him! You have no right! WOMAN She’s been threatening to do it for weeks. BETSY Don’t listen to her, Grampaw. WOMAN She thought if she could get you on tape. . . BETSY You promised! WOMAN … she’d have the evidence to prove you were insane. BETSY No! Please. WOMAN But he’s not crazy, Betsy! (POUND turns to BETSY) BETSY I didn’t want them to hurt you, Grampaw. I… I… POUND It’s all right. I know. I know. (To WOMAN) What do you mean, she’s won? WOMAN They already had their minds made up. You were right. They didn’t listen to me. My report was only a formality. It would seem that what I think and say no longer counts. In the opinion of Doctor Overholser, you’re still suffering from some kind of psychotic disorder. I’m afraid the panel’s decided to accept his recommendation. They’ve believe you’re unfit to enter a plea. POUND Unfit! WOMAN Incapable. POUND On what grounds? WOMAN Mentally competency. Lack of. BETSY You mean they’re not going to try him? POUND She means they’re a pack of cowards. WOMAN I did what I could, Mr Pound. BETSY He never should’ve been arrested in the first place. WOMAN Stay out of it, Betsy. POUND Good strategy, my dear, keeping Pound away from the forum of a courtroom. BETSY (To POUND) They can’t touch you! WOMAN It’s finished. POUND Like hell it is. BETSY Don’t argue with her. POUND They don’t know what they’re talking about. BETSY Leave it, Grampaw. POUND They haven’t proven a damn thing! WOMAN They don’t have to. (Pause) POUND Oh yes! Yes, they do. One day they will have to account for me. History will have to account for me. They can’t keep me locked up here forever. WOMAN They’re not intending to. POUND So what’re they gonna do now? Hang me without a trial? WOMAN Believe me, Mr Pound, if it had been up to me I would’ve much rather seen you answer the charges, with or without the death penalty. At least it would’ve been settled. POUND What’re you driving at? WOMAN They’re going to release you. POUND (In union with BETSY) Release me! BETSY (In unison with POUND) What! WOMAN You’ve been judged incurably insane. They’ve decided you’ll never be fit enough to stand trial. You’re to be placed in the care of your wife. It’s over, Mr Pound. BETSY That means… he’s free. (POUND stares at the WOMAN, then turns to BETSY) POUND (Profoundly) Noooo! (POUND moves away) BETSY But they’re going to let him go. He’s safe now. WOMAN Yes. Safe. (SHE moves closer to POUND) I wanted you to know… I’m leaving the Department. (Beat) I had to go against what I believed in to tell the truth about you. I don’t think I would’ve been able to have lived with myself if I hadn’t. (Beat) Sometimes, the only thing you can do is walk away. (Beat) I’m sorry. (Pause… then turning to BETSY) Can I give you a lift? BETSY No. WOMAN Don’t worry, Betsy. I won’t tell your mother. BETSY I’ll make my own way. WOMAN Suit yourself. I’ll see you on Tuesday. (Beat) Good-bye, Mr Pound. (HE doesn’t acknowledge her. SHE turns and exits) POUND All my enemies have turned to dust. BETSY What does it mean, Grampaw? POUND It means nothing… nothing will be rectified. (Stage lights dim. Spotlight up on POUND. The silence is broken by a distant, mad howling from one of the wards. POUND cocks his head, listening) POUND (Continued) You see! Drammer is reduced to this. The man gave everything he had. An unconfident country will take it all, give nothing in return… then you awake, wordless, with the moon in a window. One belongs to the world… or to nothing. (Stage lights slowly fade up. POUND turns and moves to his desk. BETSY waits, holding a microphone) BETSY Thank you for doing this for us. POUND It may be the last thing I do. Silence is beginning to look more and more appealing. I suppose one can be captured by it. (BETSY adjusts the volume on the tape recorder. SHE holds the microphone a few inches from POUND’S mouth. SHE nods) POUND (Continued) Sic semper tyrannis, a brackish tribulation. Great skill precedes creation. The knowledge of plants and birds serves better than a stipend; A direct feeling. “Manners are from the earth and from water; they arise out of hills and streams.” (Stage lights begin to fade as a small spotlight illuminates POUND’S face) The Land, an extension of the body. There are still those who walk the Earth and know this, who are attuned to the distribution of the spirits of children. And those who come from other places, for whom custom is only business, have no ears for the stories the Earth can tell - and no knowledge… (Stage lights out. Spotlight on face) More isolated than I, in my hell-hole, dreaming of the Wandjina. (Spotlight out - BLACKOUT) END ACT 2 SIXTEEN WORDS FOR WATER was first performed by the Sydney Theatre Company at The Wharf Theatre, Sydney, Australia, on 13 August, 1991, with the following cast: EZRA POUND………………………..Simon Chilvers WOMAN………………………………Rosemary Harris BETSY…………………………………Miranda Otto Director: Rhys McConnochie Designer: Ken Wilby Dramaturg: Paul Thompson This play is dedicated to Edwin R. Field Teacher & friend SYNOPSIS (Sixteen Words For Water) Indicted for making anti-American broadcasts over Italian radio during the Second World War, the American poet, Ezra Pound, deemed unfit to plead to a charge of treason, was committed to a mental institution in Washington D.C. , where he has spent the last thirteen years of his life. Now he is faced with the ultimate choice: the continued safety of the asylum or a courtroom and the possibility of the death sentence. Sixteen Words For Water offers a witty and dramatic examination of the paradox and apparent contradiction of a man torn between the wealth of his imagination and the poverty of his politics. Sixteen Words For Water Production & publication history 1990 - Two-week workshop and rehearsed reading as one of the featured plays at the National Playwright’s Conference, Canberra, A.C.T. (The response of the audience at the conference was overwhelming, so much so that several major theatre companies rang me within the week following the conference asking if they might produce the play.) 1991- Five-week, world premiere season at the Wharf Theatre, Sydney Theatre Company. (August-September) British premiere - Old Red Lion Theatre, Islington. Five-week season. (September-October) Publication of play-script by Harper/Collins, first edition sells out within four weeks. 1992 - Tasmanian premiere. Zootango Theatre Company at the historic Peacock Theatre, Hobart, Tasmania. Five-week season. 1993 - New Zealand premiere. The Fortune Theatre, Dunedin, South Island. Four- week season. 1994 - Western Australian premiere - Subiaco Theatre Centre, Perth, West Australia. Produced by Theatre West in association with the Black Swan Theatre Company. Five-week season. Melbourne, Victoria. Guild Theatre, University of Melbourne production. Two-week season. Radio adaptation, produced by ABC Radio for national broadcast on ABC Classic FM. 1995 - Chalkdust Theatre Company, Q Theatre, Penrith, New South Wales. 1999 - Celtic Mouse Theatre Company. Cryptic Theatre Arts Centre, Dublin, Ireland. NOTE: This play has been the subject of several articles. Stewart Donovan, in his article for The Antigonish Review (St Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia) writes: “(Sixteen Words For Water) has all the simplicity of Beckett and all the bathos too. Pound is the Ham and Clov, the Nell and Nagg of Endgame. He is victim and persecutor, hero and villain… Marshall-Stoneking’s play is wonderful theatre and it will remain for a long time the best dramatic portrayal of the grim and tragic figure that Ezra Pound became in the last quarter of his extraordinary life.”